South Bay

Queen Mary Christmas: A New Holiday Tradition To Chill with this Year

Christmas at the Queen Mary is a great place for a family to chill. That said, if you're looking for Chill with a capital C, the ship's hitherto popular holiday extravaganza, well, that is just so last year. This year, the vintage ocean liner debuts an all-new Christmas event, based entirely on board The Queen Mary. While in previous years the entertainment was spread out on the adjacent tarmac, featured against the backdrop of the photogenic floating monument at the heart of Long Beach, this year all the festive action is located right on the art deco decks of the beloved ship.

Must-See Holiday Light Shows Worth Paying or Driving for this Christmas

An after-dinner drive to take in one of LA's classic neighborhood holiday light displays is a treat all families should indulge in. It's an easy, cheap way to get in the Christmas spirit (or just enjoy someone else's). Of course, counting on other people to decorate their lawns is only so reliable. To be sure of a full evening of light and good cheer, sometimes it's worth splurging on a pay-to-play light display. Several local destinations indulge us in our desire to see grand-scale holiday lights, from Zoo Lights to walks in the woods. The bigger the group you can round up, the more festive—but also the more expensive it can get. It helps to know which of LA's big public light shows are worth the ticket price this holiday season.

December GoList: Best Holiday Events and Activities for LA and OC Kids

Thanksgiving is behind us, and the daily, backward-counting dose of chocolate known as Advent begins. Suddenly we have barely three weeks left to squeeze every bit of holiday fun out of this city that we possibly can—with a week left over to decide whether we should try to celebrate New Year's Eve with our kids, or elusively without them. There are amazing holiday light displays to take in and loads of free holiday extravaganzas. There are Santa photos to snap, trees to light, and Nutcrackers to see; and Hanukkah looms large on the lit horizon, too. In short, no matter how hard you try to do it all, there is more epic fun stuff going on than anyone could possibly do in a month. If you had to choose, though, below are the dozen December events we suggest you make time for.

Where To Donate Toys for the Holidays: Toys for Tots, Spark of Love, and More

The holidays can be a particularly rough time to be in need, and this year's terrible fire season has put far more families in this position than usual. Showing our kids how the community rallies is important. We can make time to volunteer with our kids—a great holiday tradition—and kids can also experience the joy of giving by passing along some of last year's gifts, sharing the old with someone new before finding out what Santa delivers this season. When we pursue the parental thrill of buying super-cool toys, wrapping them, and making our kids' day on Christmas or Hanukkah, maybe we could add just one more for a child in need. We know of some great places to bring both kinds of toy donations—new and gently used—to spread around some of that holiday joy.

Breakfast with Santa Claus: Where LA Kids Can Share a Bagel with Father Christmas

Doing lunch might work for some LA types, but Santa Claus does breakfast. So before you take a train with Santa, see The Nutcracker with Santa, do some holiday shopping with Santa, wave to Santa on a boat, call Santa on the phone, or take funky LA photos with Santa, first you, your kids, AND Santa all need a good breakfast. The holidays are a busy time of year after all.

Most (though not all) of the events below require reservations, and some fill up surprisingly early. It's worth making the effort, though, if for no other reason than to see how good some people's table manners can be when the man at the head of the table is wearing a red suit and wielding a list.

18 Restaurants Open on Christmas Day in Los Angeles and Orange Country

The tree is trimmed, the presents wrapped, and the cookies baked and boxed. Hmm. Now, what to make for Christmas dinner. Our suggestion? Reservations. That’s right. Many Southland restaurants are open and happy to serve you on Christmas Day. You’ve already done so much to get ready for the holidays—instead of holing up in the kitchen, pile your family and out-of-town guests into the car and give yourself the gift of dining out. That way you all get to enjoy the day!

Best Christmas Lights and Awesomely Decorated Homes around Los Angeles

Whether your holiday of choice is Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, or Kwanzaa there is a timeless joy to be found in taking a spin around the holiday light displays. And while the glammy glitz of Rodeo Drive is fun, there is a particular magic to those over-the-top holiday light displays created by someone's (if thankfully not your) next-door neighbor. Even better is a whole street made up of nothing but this kind of neighbor, and we know where a few of those are.

The Ultimate Roundup of Free LA Holiday Events for Families

The Holidays have arrived, despite what the palm trees outside your window might be telling you. With a Santa in every mall, and a shopping list as long as your arm, it’s time to ring in the most magical time of year. But if you need a little help finding some cost-cutting events to share with the whole family, look no further. From boat parades to menorah lightings, there’s plenty of free fun to be had this Holiday season.

Fun and Free Things To Do Thanksgiving Weekend with LA Kids, November 22-25

In recent years, Thanksgiving was all about cute mash-ups (remember Thanksgivvikuh?), Black Friday shopping, and outrage over Thursday-is-Not-Friday-But-the-Middle-of-a-Holiday sales. This year, Hanukkah holds off until early December, and many major retailers are promising to stay closed on Thursday. (You go, Lakeshore Learning, Home Depot, and Barnes & Noble! As for the rest of you, time out with no pumpkin pie.)

We've found a few family friendly venues open on Thanksgiving, where you can enjoy a little morning cardio, a visit with animal friends, and maybe a good meal. (Make sure you check the hours for the day; some places are closing early.) You can make your Friday about shopping, or you can gather the family for a flick, whether new or timeless. Once again, Saturday is the new Friday, and it's all about the local.

We here are thankful for much, and hope you feel the same way. We're grateful for the truly unique shows, spectacles, and experiences that come our way this time of year. We're thankful for our beautiful climate, which lets us sled on the sand as easily as on the snow. We're grateful for our brave first responders, who put themselves in harm's way to keep us and the land safe. We're grateful for the health and well-being of our loved ones,  and we're grateful for you, our readers. Happy Thanksgiving, guys!

Keep reading for some of our best finds for fun this Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and, thankfully, Thanksgiving weekend...

18 Hanukkah Celebrations for Kids in LA and Orange County

However you spell it—Hanukkah, Hanukka, Hannukah, Chanukah, or Channuka—SoCal is a great place to be for the Festival of Lights. Home to a Jewish population larger than that of Jerusalem, Los Angeles is all about "lighting candles, wearing sandals, by the sea" (at least, that's why Tom Leher spent Hanukkah in Santa Monica). Giant menorahs light up open spaces from The OC to the Valley

Some of this year's events may be affected by our recent fires (most notably the festival at the Shalom Institute, typically one of the LA's biggest). But be assured that there are plenty of celebrations to fill the 8 crazy nights, including the popular event at the Skirball Center, as well as numerous local events and candle lightings to burn the sunset oil all week long.

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